Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 248 Views Oct 5, 2023

Many single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified by genome-wide association studies exert their effects on disease risk as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) via allele-specific expression (ASE). While databases for probing eQTLs in tissues from normal individuals exist, one may wish to ascertain eQTLs or ASE in specific tissues or disease-states not characterized in these databases. Here, we present a protocol to assess ASE of two possible target genes (GPNMB and KLHL7) of a known genome-wide association study (GWAS) Parkinson’s disease (PD) risk locus in postmortem human brain tissue from PD and neurologically normal individuals. This was done using a sequence of RNA isolation, cDNA library generation, enrichment for transcripts of interest using customizable cDNA capture probes, paired-end RNA sequencing, and subsequent analysis. This method provides increased sensitivity relative to traditional bulk RNAseq-based and a blueprint that can be extended to the study of other genes, tissues, and disease states.

Key features

• Analysis of GPNMB allele-specific expression (ASE) in brain lysates from cognitively normal controls (NC) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) individuals.

• Builds on the ASE protocol of Mayba et al. (2014) and extends application from cells to human tissue.

• Increased sensitivity by enrichment for desired transcript via RNA CaptureSeq (Mercer et al., 2014).

• Optimized for human brain lysates from cingulate gyrus, caudate nucleus, and cerebellum.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 319 Views Jun 20, 2023

There are more than 40 types of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), most of which are caused by abnormal expansion of short tandem repeats at various gene loci. These phenotypically similar disorders require molecular testing at multiple loci by fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis to identify the causative repeat expansion. We describe a simple strategy to screen for the more common SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 by rapidly detecting the abnormal CAG repeat expansion at the ATXN1, ATXN2, and ATXN3 loci using melting curve analysis of triplet-primed PCR products. Each of the three separate assays employs a plasmid DNA carrying a known repeat size to generate a threshold melt peak temperature, which effectively distinguishes expansion-positive samples from those without a repeat expansion. Samples that are screened positive based on their melt peak profiles are subjected to capillary electrophoresis for repeat sizing and genotype confirmation. These screening assays are robust and provide accurate detection of the repeat expansion while eliminating the need for fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis for every sample.

0 Q&A 538 Views May 5, 2023

Management of neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult; current analgesics, including anti-inflammatory- and opioid-based medications, are generally ineffective and can pose serious side effects. There is a need to uncover non-addictive and safe analgesics to combat neuropathic pain. Here, we describe the setup of a phenotypic screen whereby the expression of an algesic gene, Gch1, is targeted. GCH1 is the rate-limiting enzyme in the de novo synthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), a metabolite linked to neuropathic pain in both animal models and in human chronic pain sufferers. Gch1 is induced in sensory neurons after nerve injury and its upregulation is responsible for increased BH4 levels. GCH1 protein has proven to be a difficult enzyme to pharmacologically target with small molecule inhibition. Thus, by establishing a platform to monitor and target induced Gch1 expression in individual injured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in vitro, we can screen for compounds that regulate its expression levels. This approach also allows us to gain valuable biological insights into the pathways and signals regulating GCH1 and BH4 levels upon nerve injury. This protocol is compatible with any transgenic reporter system in which the expression of an algesic gene (or multiple genes) can be monitored fluorescently. Such an approach can be scaled up for high-throughput compound screening and is amenable to transgenic mice as well as human stem cell–derived sensory neurons.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 294 Views May 5, 2023

A basic function of the nervous system is to confer the ability to detect external stimuli and generate appropriate behavioral and physiological responses. These can be modulated when parallel streams of information are provided to the nervous system and neural activity is appropriately altered. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans utilizes a simple and well characterized neural circuit to mediate avoidance or attraction responses to stimuli, such as the volatile odorant octanol or diacetyl (DA), respectively. Aging and neurodegeneration constitute two important factors altering the ability to detect external signals and, therefore, changing behavior. Here, we present a modified protocol to assess avoidance or attraction responses to diverse stimuli in healthy individuals and Caenorhabditis elegans models associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

0 Q&A 695 Views Apr 5, 2023

Microinflammation enhances the permeability of specific blood vessel sites through an elevation of local inflammatory mediators, such as interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. By a two-dimensional immunohistochemistry analysis of tissue sections from mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS), we previously showed that pathogenic immune cells, including CD4+ T cells, specifically accumulate and cause microinflammation at the dorsal vessels of the fifth lumbar cord (L5), resulting in the onset of disease. However, usual pathological analyses by using immunohistochemistry on sections are not effective at identifying the microinflammation sites in organs. Here, we developed a new three-dimensional visualization method of microinflammation using luminescent gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) and the clear, unobstructed brain/body imaging cocktails and computational analysis (CUBIC) tissue-clearing method. Our protocol is based on the detection of leaked AuNCs from the blood vessels due to an enhanced vascular permeability caused by the microinflammation. When we injected ultrasmall coordinated Au13 nanoclusters intravenously (i.v.) to EAE mice, and then subjected the spinal cords to tissue clearing, we detected Au signals leaked from the blood vessels at L5 by light sheet microscopy, which enabled the visualization of complex tissue structures at the whole organ level, consistent with our previous report that microinflammation occurs specifically at this site. Our method will be useful to specify and track the stepwise development of microinflammation in whole organs that is triggered by the recruitment of pathogenic immune cells at specific blood vessels in various inflammatory diseases.

0 Q&A 538 Views Mar 20, 2023

The electroencephalogram (EEG) is a powerful tool for analyzing neural activity in various neurological disorders, both in animals and in humans. This technology has enabled researchers to record the brain’s abrupt changes in electrical activity with high resolution, thus facilitating efforts to understand the brain’s response to internal and external stimuli. The EEG signal acquired from implanted electrodes can be used to precisely study the spiking patterns that occur during abnormal neural discharges. These patterns can be analyzed in conjunction with behavioral observations and serve as an important means for accurate assessment and quantification of behavioral and electrographic seizures. Numerous algorithms have been developed for the automated quantification of EEG data; however, many of these algorithms were developed with outdated programming languages and require robust computational hardware to run effectively. Additionally, some of these programs require substantial computation time, reducing the relative benefits of automation. Thus, we sought to develop an automated EEG algorithm that was programmed using a familiar programming language (MATLAB), and that could run efficiently without extensive computational demands. This algorithm was developed to quantify interictal spikes and seizures in mice that were subjected to traumatic brain injury. Although the algorithm was designed to be fully automated, it can be operated manually, and all the parameters for EEG activity detection can be easily modified for broad data analysis. Additionally, the algorithm is capable of processing months of lengthy EEG datasets in the order of minutes to hours, reducing both analysis time and errors introduced through manual-based processing.

0 Q&A 897 Views Jan 20, 2023

Targeted protein degradation (TPD) facilitates the selective elimination of unwanted and pathological cellular cargoes via the proteasome or the lysosome, ranging from proteins to organelles and pathogens, both within and outside the cell. Currently, there are several in vitro and in vivo protocols that assess the degradative potency of a given degrader towards a myriad of targets, most notably soluble, monomeric oncoproteins. However, there is a clear deficiency of methodologies to assess the degradative potency of heterobifunctional chimeric degraders, especially those in the autophagy space, against pathological, mutant tau species, such as detergent-insoluble oligomers and high-molecular aggregates. The protocol below describes both in vitro and in vivo biochemical assays to induce tau aggregation, as well as to qualitatively and quantitatively measure the degradative potency of a given degrader towards said aggregates, with specific applications of the AUTOTAC (AUTOphagy-TArgeting Chimera) platform provided as an example. A well-defined set of methodologies to assess TPD-mediated degradation of pathological tau species will help expand the scope of the TPD technology to neurodegeneration and other proteinopathies, in both the lab and the clinic.

Graphical abstract

Overview of assays observing elimination of tauP301L aggregates with AUTOTAC. (A) Description of the biological working mechanism of heterobifunctional chimeric AUTOTAC degraders. (B) Schematic illustration of assays described in this paper.

0 Q&A 491 Views Jan 20, 2023

Lysosomes play a central role in signaling, nutrient sensing, response to stress, and the degradation and recycling of cellular content. Defects in lysosomal digestive enzymes or structural components can impair lysosomal function with dire consequences to the cell, such as neurodegeneration. A number of methods exist to assess lysosomal stress in the model Drosophila, such as specific driver and reporter strains, transmission electron microscopy, and the investigation of gene expression. These methods, however, can be time consuming and, in some cases, costly. The procedure described here provides a quick, reliable, and low-cost approach to measure lysosomal stress in the Drosophila brain. Using fluorescence confocal microscopy and the LysoTracker staining, this protocol allows for the direct measurement of lysosome size and number. This method can be used to assess lysosomal stress under a number of different genetic and environmental scenarios in the Drosophila brain.

0 Q&A 399 Views Dec 5, 2022

Pavlovian fear conditioning is a widely used procedure to assess learning and memory processes that has also been extensively used as a model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Freezing, the absence of movement except for respiratory-related movements, is commonly used as a measure of fear response in non-human animals. However, this measure of fear responses can be affected by a different baseline of locomotor activity between groups and/or conditions. Moreover, fear conditioning procedures are usually restricted to a single conditioned stimulus (e.g., a tone cue, the context, etc.) and thus do not depict the complexity of real-life situations where traumatic memories are composed of a complex set of stimuli associated with the same aversive event. To overcome this issue, we use a conditioned lick suppression paradigm where water-deprived mice are presented with a single conditioned stimulus (CS, a tone cue or the context) previously paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US, a foot shock) while consuming water. We use the ratio of number of licks before and during the CS presentation as a fear measure, thereby neutralizing the potential effect of locomotor activity in fear responses. We further implemented the conditioned lick suppression ratio to assess the effect of cue competition using a compound of contextual and tone cue conditioned stimuli that were extinguished separately. This paradigm should prove useful in assessing potential therapeutics and/or behavioral therapies in PTSD, while neutralizing potential confounding effects between locomotor activity and fear responses on one side, and by considering potential cue-competition effects on the other side.

Graphical abstract

Schematic representation of the compound context-cue condition lick suppression procedure. Illustration reproduced from Bouchekioua et al. (2022).

0 Q&A 672 Views Oct 5, 2022

Late-gestation transient intrauterine hypoxia is a common cause of birth injury. It can lead to long-term neurodevelopmental disabilities even in the absence of gross anatomic injury. Currently, postnatal models of hypoxia–ischemia are most commonly used to study the effect of oxygen deprivation in the fetal brain. These models, however, are unable to take into account placental factors that influence the response to hypoxia, exhibit levels of cell death not seen in many human patients, and are unable to model preterm hypoxia. To address this gap in research, we have developed a protocol to induce transient hypoxia in fetal mice. A pregnant dam at gestational day 17.5 is placed into a hypoxia chamber. Over 30 min, the inspired oxygen is titrated from 21% (ambient air) to 5%. The dam remains in the chamber for up to 8 h, after which fetal brains can be collected or pups delivered for postnatal studies. This protocol recapitulates phenotypes seen in human patients exposed to transient in utero hypoxia and is readily reproducible by researchers.

Graphical abstract:

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